Cancer threatens a combat vet’s best friend and lifesaver

Guest post by Lisa Bonnington

Robbie spent four years as a US Marine before he became a Green Beret Special Forces medic in the Army.

Bella, Robbie’s PTSD service dog started her life as a rejected show dog thanks to an overbite. Then she became a skilled and irreplaceable service dog, a companion, a friend, and above all a life-saving member of Robbie’s family.

But the story of Bella and Robbie didn’t start there.

Several years after being honorably discharged, a deeply concerned friend tricked Robbie into going to the VA, where he was diagnosed with service related PTSD.  An account of this event is shared in Robbie’s soon to be released book The Next Mission.

Based on a recommendation that a service dog might help with Robbie’s PTSD symptoms that were becoming progressively worse, Robbie started the process to find a service animal. When he read Bella’s profile, he thought her temperament sounded ideal for his needs. Unfortunately, Bella was already scheduled for adoption to a man in Pennsylvania but that ended when the man lost his job and went through a divorce.

To meet Robbie, Bella started her second journey. She flew alone from Maryland to Atlanta with an eight-hour layover, before finally reaching her destination, Colorado Springs.  Bella arrived severely dehydrated, starving, scared, and covered in her own feces.  Lucky for Bella, Robbie’s medical training helped him deal with her health challenges and he was able to nurse Bella back to health.

Since then, the two have been inseparable.

Bella naturally and gracefully handles her responsibility as a service dog.  When Robbie’s PTSD is triggered she will place her head in his lap to take his focus off the trigger.  She will push her head under his hands, requesting a pet to give him a calming distraction.  If she hears stress in his voice, she often stands between Robbie and who or what has triggered him.

Bella is a kind, loving, gentle giant that thinks she is a lap dog.  I have never seen her aggressive unless she feels a member of her family is in danger.  She has adopted us, my boys and I, as her own.

Bella has grown into a skilled and irreplaceable service dog, a companion, a friend and above all a loved member of our family.

Recently Bella was diagnosed with Cancer in her hip.  The veterinarians and specialists we’ve met both recommended amputation of her hind quarter and possibly chemo therapy.  They also assured us that this was the best course of action and treatment to give her a chance to reach her normal life expectancy.  They assured us that dogs unlike people adapt quite easily to being a tripod.

However, this treatment comes at a very high price with the surgical estimate running between $5,000-$7,000 and that doesn’t include the expenses Robbie has already paid for x-rays, the diagnosis, medication, and the future possibility of chemo treatment.

With Robbie living on a fixed income due to his service disability, these costs are prohibitive, and we are not in a position to handle this expense.  We are now faced with the grim possibility of having to consider putting Bella down.  For anyone who has had to make this heartbreaking decision you know how devastating it can be.  To be forced to make it due to financial constraints is even worse.

We would not be able to live with ourselves if we did not exercise every possibility to help save Bella.  She has given so much of herself unconditionally, and it is our turn to take care of her.

Bella is the reason that Robbie, during very dark times, did not take his own life.  It is incomprehensible for him to consider taking hers.

I humbly ask you to consider a donation no matter how big or small and/or to share Bella’s story.  Go Fund Me: Saving Bella the Service Dog

Thank you.

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Regardless of what Donald Trump Claims, the United States is NOT paying for Europe’s Defense

In 2017, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Fact Sheet, the United State’s defense budget was $685.9 billion.

“In 2017 the report says the U.K. spent some $55.2 billion on defense, Germany $45.4 billion and France $45.9 billion. But this still pales when compared with the United States’ $685.9 billion in spending.”

But what about the European Union’s (EU) total spending on defense? “The total cumulative spending of the EU member states was 267.4 Billion USD.”

To put that in perspective, here are the next top five countries in the world for defense spending in 2017.

2. The People’s Republic of China – $228 billion
3. Saudi Arabia – $69.4 billion
4. Russia – $66.3 billion
5. India – $63.9 billion
6. France – $57.8 billion

If the European Union (EU) spent $267.4 billion on its defense in 2017, that means they were #2 on the list right behind the United States, and before China.

In addition, EU countries agree to create a European mega-army. “Twenty-three EU countries, including Germany and France, have agreed to integrate their defense forces.”

What will the EU’s combined military look like? The EU possesses 525 nuclear warheads and hosts between 90 and 130 US warheads. Italy hosts 70-90 B61 nuclear bombs, while Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands have 10-20 each.

The EU has the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, after the United States and Russia.

The European Union’s combined active military forces in 2011 totaled 1,551,038 personnel while according to Pew Research, in 2017, 61,710 U.S. troops were deployed in the EU.

Since the U.S. has approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops that means less than five percent of US troops were stationed in Europe.

In addition, the United States and Russia are NOT the only countries with special forces troops.

The Top 10 Most Elite Special Forces units in the world taken from a list of fifty. Fifteen European countries have Special Forces units on the complete list. Three European countries are listed on the top ten with the British SAS at #1.

These are the TOP TEN:

  1. British SAS
  2. US Navy SEALs
  3. Indonesian Kopassus
  4. Russian Spetznaz
  5. U.S. Delta Force
  6. Indian NSG
  7. U.S. Green Berets
  8. German KSK
  9. Australian Special Air Service Regiment
  10. Polish GROM

Why did Donald Trump lie about the United States paying for Europe’s defense?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

The Strongest Tree Stands Alone

“There it is, girls,” the teacher said as his group slipped through the narrow space between two large granite boulders.  Mr. Jasper heard some of the girls gasp in awe and murmur at the view spread out below them. The valley with its city stretched toward the ocean.

“It looks like purple soup,” one girl said of the carbon haze hiding most of the distant buildings and highways.

“It feels like we’re standing on another world,” a second girl says.

“Mr. Jasper, how old is it?” the youngest asked. Tiffany was fourteen and instead of staring at the view, she was looking at the bristlecone pine clinging to the steep slope near the peak of this 9,400-foot mountain. Tiff weighed about ninety pounds and stood five foot, three inches tall.

“I’ve read this tree was here before Jesus Christ was born,” Jasper replied.

That caught the attention of the others six. “No shit!”

“For being that old, it doesn’t look like it’s that tough.” The oldest girl, Crystal, was twenty-two. Her arms were covered with colorful, artistic tattoos. After being repeatedly raped by her stepfather and three half-brothers starting when she was eleven, she cut herself. After she stopped, the scars embarrassed her explaining the recent body art. She’d been in Mr. Jasper’s English class for four years and was on track to finally graduate this year.

“Mr. Jasper, even you look sturdier than that tree, and you are really old,” one of the other girls says.

Mr. Jasper grinned. He was seventy-four and had been a teacher for forty-three years.

“How long can one of these survive?” Tiffany asked as she frowned and glared at the girl that called her teacher old.

“The oldest one has been around for more than 5,000 years,” he said as he made eye contact with all of them. “You know why I brought you here. These trees are not only long-lived but they are highly resistant to harsh weather and bad soil.”

“They are survivors,” Crystal said, “like you are teaching us to be.”

Mr. Jasper nodded. He taught at an alternative high school that only worked with the most difficult students. All of these girls had been abused and bullied. Some were victims of rape. They all had PTSD just like Mr. Jasper. Before going to college on the GI Bill and teaching, he’d been a Green Beret and served in Vietnam for three tours.

When he discovered some of his students had PTSD, he decided to do something about it and back in the late 1980s formed what he called a survival club. This year there were no boys. He taught everyone that joined how to manage their PTSD and defend themselves when bullied. He also took them on trips into the wilderness and taught them how to survive there too.

“Well, well, look at this,” a raspy, gravel voice said.

Mr. Jasper was the furthest from the narrow passage between the boulders. He saw the girls turn and stare at the three muscular young men that had appeared in the gap. It was obvious from the gang tattoos that they belonged to one of the more violent gangs that plagued the poorest areas of the city. He’d seen them sitting in their car at the dirt parking lot at the base of the trail that led to this mountaintop. He’d also been aware that they had been following him and the girls.

“I’m in love,” the largest, muscle-bound gangster said and he was staring at Crystal who appeared to shrink as fear blossomed in her eyes.

Tiffany, who was the smallest in every way, pushed through the pack to stand in front of Crystal. She put a hand on Crystal’s arm and felt her trembling. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I’ll take care of this,” she said.

Tiffany was not only Mr. Jasper’s student, she was also one of his five foster children, currently three boys, and two girls, and she’d been with him since she was eight.

The three goons had flesh-eating grins splitting the evil looking tattoo covered faces. “I’m going to have me three of them,” one of the gangbangers said.

“Like hell you are.” And Tiffany launched herself. She took out the biggest one first with a flying leap and a foot to his groin. Twisting off of his falling body, she sliced out with a fist and hit her second target in the throat and then spinning she bounced to her feet and with her legs like coiled spring slammed into number three with the top of her head breaking his nose. Rolling off of him, she landed prone on the ground and spun knocking his legs out from under him causing him to fall hard.

Her attack took Tiffany less than three seconds.

Back on her feet, with a toothy smile splitting her pretty face, she turned to the others and said, “See what you can do to jerks like this if you listen to Mr. Jasper and learn what he teaches you?”

“Shit, girl, I want to learn moves like that,” one of the girls said. ”When do we start, Mr. Jasper?”

“Tiffany was my last hand-to-hand combat student,” he replied. “I’m too old for that anymore. She will teach you but I feel it is my duty to warn you Tiffany will not put up with laziness or smart mouths. If she says her class starts at five in the morning, don’t be late. She isn’t as patient as I am.”

“No shit, Sherlock!” another girl said.

“And you will call me Ms. Bristlecone,” Tiffany said.

That drew laughter from the others.

The three gang bangers were still on the ground writhing and groaning in pain.

“Can I hurt them, Mr. Jasper?” Tiffany asked as she narrowed her eyes. “I mean, really hurt them!”

“No, Tiff,” he said. “Just take their shoes so they have to hike back to their car barefoot. … Oh, and take their car keys and throw them that way.” He pointed toward the valley and the city hidden beneath the purple carbon haze. “If they want to drive home, they’ll have to risk climbing down the steep slope to find the keys.”

“I like that idea,” Tiffany said. She pointed to two of the other girls who were currently learning what she already knew about defending herself. “Watch my back while I take their shoes and find those keys.”

Note: This post was written from a VA writing group prompt, a photo of what looked like a single tree in a purple mist growing on the side of a steep slope.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

I am a Former U.S. Marine – what about you?

Recently, on another blog, I was chastised in a reply to one of my comments where I mentioned I was a former Marine.  The Blog post was about Trump wanting to arm teachers to protect our public schools. I was against that insane, stupid idea from the serial lying, Orange Dumpster who is also known to me as the Kremlin’s Agent Orange. I have no respect for Donald Trump. I despise this poor excuse for a human being.

My anonymous critic was allegedly a she, and she had never been a U.S. Marine because she pointed out in her comment that all the Marines she knew referred to themselves as inactive Marines and that she had never heard anyone refer to themselves as a former Marine.  The way she wrote her comment made it sound like I was a liar and had never been a U.S. Marine.

To be clear, I have been an active Marine, an inactive Marine, and finally a former Marine. I’ve been a former Marine for a long time and it is going to stay that way up to my last heart beat and breathe. I wouldn’t accept one million dollars to become an active Marine again, but I also wouldn’t accept a million dollars to sell my experiences as a U.S. Marine to someone else.

An active U.S. Marine is still in uniform and belongs to the U.S. government.  Believe me when I say that when you join any of the branches of the U.S. military, you basically become a slave with a wage, and my DD-214 clearly shows I was an active Marine from May 1965 to May 1968 when I was released from active duty and became an inactive Marine until the end of my reserve obligation. During the years I was in the inactive reserves, I could have been called back to active duty at any time.

That inactive duty ended on January 20, 1971 when I became a free civilian again and was officially a former Marine.

The VA says, “A person who is active duty is in the military full time. They work for the military full time, may live on a military base, and can be deployed at any time. Persons in the Reserve or National Guard are not full-time active duty military personnel, although they can be deployed at any time should the need arise.”

The U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve says, “The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is a category of the Ready Reserve of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces of the United States composed of former active duty or reserve military personnel, and is authorized under 10 U.S.Code Section 1005.  The IRR is composed of enlisted personnel and officers, from all ranges of Military Occupational Specialties including combat arms, combat support, and combat service support.

“Individuals assigned to the IRR receive no pay and are not obligated to drill, conduct annual training, or participate in any military activities (except for periodic Muster activities) until ordered by Presidential Authority.  Individuals who are assigned to an “Inactive Status” are entitled to limited benefits.  These benefits include:  Entitlement to a Military ID Card, ID Cards for their dependents, PX (Exchange) benefits, Commissary benefits, and MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) Benefits.”

My inactive status as a U.S. Marine ended forty-seven years ago in 1971. That was when I became a former Marine. Any former Marine that claims they are an inactive Marine and they are not in the IRR or the Ready Reserve is technically wrong. It doesn’t matter what they think, they are wrong if they call themselves an inactive Marine once they become a civilian again with no official, legal ties to the Marine Corps. I was once an active Marine and will always think and react like a Marine. Marines belong to a unique tribe, a brotherhood of warriors trained to kill in combat, but once we leave active or inactive duty, we are a former Marine.

My Honorable Discharge is dated January 20, 1971 … not May 17, 1968 when I left active duty for inactive duty.

Here’s why I’m writing this post. If there are former Marines out there calling themselves inactive Marines and they are not in the Marine reserves, they are doing real inactive Marines a disservice because those Marine are still in a position to be called up and sent into harm’s way on a moment’s notice, while former Marines are not in that same situation. If a former Marine wants to serve again, they have to return to active or inactive duty if the U.S. Marines will take them back.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

Music Therapy for PTSD from a 13-year-old singer-songwriter

I’m a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat vet that has lived with PTSD since 1966 when I returned from the war, and recently I have discovered that music helps me cope and sleep better.  And not just any music but the songs were written by and sang by child prodigy Grace VanderWaal. For me, no other music has worked to give me a sense of peace from the demons of PTSD.

But why does it work?

Brainwave Power Music reports, “Studies have shown that music can trigger the brain to release chemicals to distract the body and mind from the pain. Music, as well as binaural beats and isochronic tones which augment the effects, reach the brain’s auditory cortex, which causes the communication between the cortex and the sections of the brain that govern emotion, memory, and body control.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says, “Findings suggest that the music therapy was effective in reducing depression symptoms and improving health-related quality of life. Investigators are developing a multi-center study to test if their findings are generalizable to a larger and more diverse group of Veterans. Also, in coordination with local Guitars for Vets chapters, the music therapy program has been successfully taken up by several VA sites …”

A Frontiers in Psychology report: Music and trauma: the relationship between music, personality, and coping style.

“Survivors of violence have also benefited from participation in music therapy programs. In one project working with survivors of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City (American Music Therapy Association, 2011), 33 music therapists provided over 7000 programs to children, adults, and families. The programs were designed to reduce stress, improve coping, and process the trauma associated with the crisis by drawing on a range of techniques including musical improvisation, songwriting, singing, sharing stories, and relaxing with music.”

However, “While the benefits of the arts therapies discussed above are multiple, there is some evidence that people do not always respond in the same way to music or other creative arts in dealing with trauma.”

Maybe the following pull quote from a post I found on Reddit.com explains why Grace’s music works magic for my PTSD but not just me. I’ve heard from others living with PTSD that her music works for them too.

Grace VanderWaal, Classical Composer of Contemporary Popular Folk Music said, “Grace’s music is, as far as contemporary music goes, singularly unique. Her songs are complex works of artistic inspiration – musical genius. If you break any of Grace’s songs into their component melody sections, there are three, four, or even FIVE distinct movements; and the way ‘I Don’t Know My Name’ closes cleanly, fully resolved both musically and lyrically, with a stinger, is pure artistry.

“Most works by modern songwriters are two movements, three at most. Two would be verse and chorus (Blowin’ in the Wind [Dylan], Hallelujah [Cohen]); three would be verse, chorus, and break strain (many songs by Jim Croce and Elton John had break strains). But,… four or FIVE distinct portions, arranged to sound like nine or more?! Very few contemporary popular music composers do this — Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller come to mind as examples, also The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) and Queen on several works. This is the kind of thing Mozart and Beethoven did, centuries ago.”


Grace was named the MTV Push December Artist of the Month and she is only 13. I listen to Grace singing the cover of “River” by Leon Bridges several times a day. I think her performance is that powerful.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

 

The Alleged Promise of “Healing” Drugs – legal or illegal

The New York Times published this misleading Op-Ed crap called The Promise of Ecstasy for PTSD, and said, “The F.D.A. approval is a beacon of hope for the roughly eight million Americans believed to suffer from PTSD, a group that includes victims of abuse, refugees and combat veterans.”

My response, “This is more Bullshit from the corporate kleptocracy, a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves, that wants to profit from our suffering.”

I have lived with PTSD since I returned from Vietnam in 1966. My first step to manage that PTSD was to stop drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in 1982. I haven’t been drunk or hungover since, because I know from sixteen years of experience that alcohol makes PTSD worse.

DrugPolicy.org answers important questions we should all know and consider before leaping off a cliff into a pool of mind-altering drugs. For instance, “What are the most common adulterants in what’s sold as ‘molly’ or ‘ecstasy’ (in other words, what chemicals is it commonly cut with)? …

“Due to being one of the most adulterated drug markets, the impurity of molly in different regions and at different times varies quite a bit – that is, there’s no such thing as the ‘most common adulterants’.

“Besides MDMA, ‘ecstasy’ or ‘molly’ may contain varying levels of: Psychoactive substances designed to mimic the effects of MDMA like MDA (methylene-dioxyamphetamine a.k.a. ‘sass’) or ‘bath salts’ (a general term for synthetic cathinones, a class of amphetamine-like stimulants); Stimulants like amphetamine, cocaine, caffeine or methamphetamine; or, more rarely Anesthetics such as ketamine (‘Special K’) or dextromethorphan (DXM – an ingredient found in over-the-counter cough medicines).

“All of these can significantly amplify potential harms. The most important thing for harm reduction is to know what you’re getting. According to Ecstasydata.org – an independent laboratory testing program of Erowid Center – among 250 samples they analyzed in 2014 that were sold as molly, 40 samples contained MDMA with adulterants, and nearly half (124) contained no MDMA at all!”

Every one of these mind-altering drugs, legal or illegal, causes harm to the body in one way or another.

DrugPolicy.org says, “As with all alcohol and other drug use, taking MDMA carries risks, albeit comparatively lower than most other drugs.

“For example, a 2010 study published in the prestigious Lancet journal was conducted to gauge the relative potential harms of drugs to both consumers and to society, and MDMA was found to be among the least risky.”

But what does “least risky” mean when every drug comes with a risk even if there are alleged benefits and if you clicked on that last link to DrugPolicy.org, you will discover a chart that compares those risks, and the one with the most risk is a legal drug called alcohol.

I think the only way to deal with PTSD and other mental challenges is to learn to manage it on your own, and if you can’t or won’t, you are just fucked. Legal or illegal drugs all have side effects that are often worse than the mental or physical health problem we want to fix. And all of those drugs profit someone like President and malignant narcissist and psychopath/sociopath Donald Trump.

There is another choice and that choice is called mindfulness and/or meditation. Mindful.org says, “Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.

“Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Psychology Today says, “Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment. Meditating is deceptively simple. A cartoon from The New Yorker sums it up: Two monks are sitting side by side, meditating. The younger one is giving the older one a quizzical look, to which the older one responds, ‘Nothing happens next. This is it.’”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award-winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

What the Active Military Really Thinks of Twitter-Fingers Donald Trump

Who is spreading lies that the majority of the active, U.S. military supports Donald Trump … Trump’s Fake News Machine that includes Breitbart, Fox News, and Alex Jones?

It looks like 70-percent of officers and 52-percent of the troops that are not officers can’t stand Trump.

“Rate Your Commander-in-Chief. A new poll from the Military Times reveals troops’ attitudes towards President Donald Trump. Overall, members of the military viewed Trump more favorably than the general public. …

“Officers tended to have lower opinions of the president; just 30 percent gave him a favorable rating, compared to 48 percent of enlisted troops. The findings are similar to results from last year’s poll, just after Trump’s election.” – reported by Foreign Policy Magazine

To U.S. military veterans and active military that deplorably support Donald Trump, I want to remind you of your oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies both foreign and domestic. The evidence is overwhelming … Donald Trump is clearly an enemy of the U.S. Constitution.

This next paragraph is the oath of office for the President of the United States.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.

Where to Buy

Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.